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Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town is only the second game in the series to come to PlayStation, but it’s not just the second game from this development team. They were responsible for the original Harvest Moon games that began on SNES in 1996 and they’ve been on PlayStation consoles since 1999 in Japan, so this may feel very familiar. Pioneers of Olive Town takes the basic premise of all the previous games in the franchise but tries to innovate by adding elements from other successful farm sims like Stardew Valley and Animal Crossing, but it isn’t always that successful.
The player inherits their grandparents’ old farm near Olive Town. Not only is the town struggling to attract tourists, but the farm is now overgrown and run down. There’s a tent, a small area of land, and a derelict chicken coop. It’s a decent-sized plot of land to start growing a couple of crops, and the resources cleared for those plots will help to restore the coop. There’s even a mine to get iron ore. Then you find a bridge to the second plot of land with a derelict barn, mushroom log, and different wild plants. Then there’s the third area of land with even more facilities.
Building a grand old farm
The farm is large and there’s never a shortage of interesting things to do. Running between the different areas takes a fair amount of time, so much so there are even mounts to make travel time shorter. Like a real farm, the number of simple jobs that need doing is seemingly never-ending, whether it’s animal care, watering and harvesting crops, clearing the land, mining, or fishing. Time goes slower than in the games that came before Pioneers of Olive Town so you can get all of the basic jobs done. With time to spare, there’s even a chance to make plans to upgrade facilities and turn the farm into something of which you can be proud. It’s far too easy to lose hours of the day while doing this.
Resources will always grow back so there’s never a chance to run out of resources. If anything, the resources grow back too quickly. Clear room for a paddock and the next day there will be 2-3 trees trying to grow through, as well as grass patches and magically reappearing rocks. If left too long, those areas become so densely overgrown again they become impossible to navigate through. The only way to prevent this is to pave over those areas, the opposite of having a grazing paddock.
Pioneers of Olive Town is not just a matter of selling farm produce. There are now skills to learn and upgrade to unlock more crafting recipes, farming techniques, animals, and crops. Machines (known as Makers) can be crafted to convert produce into other products too. The problem with this is that there are too many makers, and ome of them could have been combined. There’s no need for separate butter, yogurt, and cheese makers when a single dairy maker could have sufficed, perhaps with the option to upgrade them if necessary. To rub things in, each maker can only handle producing a maximum of ten pieces of one product at a time before it is upgraded, so multiple versions of each maker are needed. There will be an entire area of the farm dedicated solely to makers.
As well as farm jobs, there are also quests to complete in Olive Town to improve the town or solve problems for other characters. These quests merely involve delivering resources while the improvements happen behind the scenes. There’s a museum to be filled with interesting objects and wildlife you find on the farm, too. Olive Town is where you can source almost anything you’ll ever need, from seeds and animals to pet toys and top-of-the-range meals. The most interesting occurrences are the seasonal events, though, which take the form of mini-games like hunting Easter eggs or using a hammer to chuck barrels into the harbor. It’s a chance to win prize money and become more familiar with the town’s residents.
Becoming a respected resident of Olive Town
All of Olive Town’s residents are happy to talk to you but their daily conversation is boring and skippable without missing anything of importance. They’ll talk about seasonal events over and over again. In between those events they will talk about random uninteresting things instead. As friendship and romantic interest increase, small events will happen that show the true personality of the characters, but as soon as that event is over then the characters go back to the same banal conversation. The good news is that Pioneers of Olive Town has finally made steps to move into the modern age. A player can romance both men and women regardless of their character’s gender with no friendship ceremonies in sight. There are also plenty of character costume options that can be worn by both men and women.
Overall, Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town is a relaxing game where players can spend hours tending their farm without even realizing it. The experience never gets frustrating but there are a few design decisions that stop it from being great, mainly the machines that become time wasters while players wait for resources. The residents of Olive Town could be more interesting, but then the point of the game is to build a farm rather than socialize into the night. There are far worse farm sims out there, but this isn’t the best of them either.